Utah’s national monuments are scenic, sacred and now sexy enough to take a turn on the catwalk.
Hoping to “make a statement” in support of wilderness, designer Chris Leba featured everyday Utahns and their fight to protect the Bears Ears and Grand Staircase-Escalante monuments on several pieces in his new line of clothing.
Leba, owner of R13 Denim, unveiled these rugged, futuristic — think Mad Max with khaki and camouflage — pieces during New York Fashion Week, held annually in February.
Among the Utah-inspired pieces are a men’s T-shirt with a “Protect Wild Utah” sign and a women’s jumpsuit showcasing a “Utah Stands with Bears Ears” poster. A collage of Utah protesters serves as the background in both pieces.
Fashion once again makes a statement, joining black gowns at the Golden Globes and pink, pointy-eared “pussyhats” at women’s marches.
The photos used to make the fabric were taken in December, when thousands of people gathered outside the state Capitol protesting what was then the imminent action by President Donald Trump to reduce the size of the two monuments.
Mathew Gross, the media director for the Southern Utah Wilderness Alliance, was pleased to see the issue become a focus point for high fashion.
“It speaks to the national and international interest in protecting Utah wilderness,” he said. “These lands belong to all Americans, and however people want to express their love for them, we are happy to see.”
Gross isn’t sure what effect the fashions might have. “If it won’t change minds, it will raise awareness,” he said. “When people see these pictures, hopefully they will ask ’What is that about?’ and find a way to get involved.”
One of the most prominent Utah faces in the crowd was that of Steve Baker. The Salt Lake City resident, with his dark sunglasses and beard, was immediately recognizable to the staff at The Salt Lake Tribune, as he was a former colleague.
“Out of the 5,000 people who were there, I don’t know why they picked my face,” said Baker. “But I feel honored.”
He hopes the clothing line brings attention to Utah wilderness and the need to preserve it for future generations. “I find it sad that our representatives don’t value wilderness,” he said. “They value oil and gas and short-term profits.”
An avid hiker and outdoor enthusiast, Baker said he’s not much for high fashion — “unless it’s from REI,” he joked. “But I’d take a Bears Ears T-shirt if they have one.”
Unfortunately, there’s no chance of that. Lindsey Solomon, a spokesman for R13, said Leba’s fashions “won’t be produced” for public sale.